Sean from Boulder, CO

What trees are beautiful to you?

Oak, cypress and hemlock are my favorites.

Del from Sterling, IL

How do you handle covering a player that is underperforming because he is hurt, but the player and the coaches refuse to blame the injury?

You cite the facts; it’s all you can do. You compare his performance since the injury to his performance previous to the injury, and you mix in his and the coaches’ denials. It’s been my experience the player and coaches want you to do that. They want the fans to know this is a man who’s playing hurt, but they can’t use injuries as a crutch.

Matthew from Kingsford, MI

I don’t like you but (yesterday’s) edition was articulate and poignant. You made me laugh. Thank you. Are you ready for Jared Cook?

Yes.

Zack from Radford, VA

Vic, I know polls don’t matter, but seeing the top 100 is voted on by the players just disturbs me on Clay’s ranking. In 2011 he was 11th overall, now 57th, which is six spots lower than last season, after having a career high in tackles. Am I wrong for thinking this?

Everybody wanted him to move to inside linebacker. Well, this is what happens. Just as offensive linemen are judged according to the best left tackles, linebackers are judged according to the best rush backers. Clay Matthews made an unselfish move inside in 2014 that was the defensive catalyst to a run that nearly took the Packers to the Super Bowl. It was a move Matthews made at the shank of his career, and he never, ever complained about it. It’s one of the most team-first acts I have experienced in my 44 years of covering the NFL.

Nathan from Baltimore, MD

How would one go about coaching a team to start fast as opposed to finishing fast? Wouldn’t you just teach them to play fast all the time?

You get what you emphasize. I have no doubt Coach McCarthy was prepared to shift the emphasis at the bye week, but by that point injuries had become the story and then came the king of all distractions, the play-calling controversy.

Jake from La Crosse, WI

I can admit that as a 25-year-old I wasn’t watching Troy Aikman play in the early ’90s, but could you explain why he’s regarded as one of the most accurate quarterbacks? His 165 career touchdowns to 141 career interceptions would seem to say otherwise, even in a different era of defensive freedom.

If you had been watching, you would’ve seen a passer who put the ball on his receivers’ hands. Aikman was a top tight-window passer. Interceptions are more indicative of decision-making than lack of passing accuracy. The Cowboys had a power offense. They had big receivers and they forced the ball downfield; they didn’t dink and dunk. Also, 36 of those interceptions were thrown in Aikman’s first two seasons, and in two of his Super Bowl seasons Aikman threw only 13 interceptions combined. He played at a time when the league was transitioning from take-what-you-want football to a take-what-they-give-you style of play. His stats are consistent with the era in which he played.

Bob from Corpus Christi, TX

The discussion regarding the one-on-ones reminded me that after Lombardi won the first championship with the Packers, it was noted a good portion of the roster was unchanged from the very poor years and, when asked, he noted that previously it appeared that on any given play only four or five players did what they were supposed to do, and he knew if he could get nine or 10 of the players to be successful, the team would be a winner.

If you’re winning 90 percent of the one-on-ones, you’re one of the great teams in NFL history. Just win at the point of attack and you’ll be a Super Bowl contender. By the way, that was a great William Faulkner imitation.

Mike from La Crosse, WI

Let me guess. You saw “Jaws” and haven’t been in an ocean since?

I saw the movie in a theater while on vacation in Ocean City, Md., in 1975. I haven’t been in ocean water above my ankles since.

Alejandro from Mexico City, Mexico

Of the top 10 quarterbacks with the highest passer rating, seven are still playing. This list obviously does not correspond to the top 10 quarterbacks to play the game; statistics can easily be misrepresented. Is there a statistic you trust that tells you exactly what you need to know?

When I use stats to get a feel for quarterbacks, I always use yards-per-attempt and yards-per-catch averages as levelers. They often explain passer-rating and touchdown-to-interception stats. Terry Bradshaw and Joe Namath, for example, have whopping 13.8 and 14.7 yards-per-catch averages, which explain their high interception totals. They played in the bump-and-run, seven- and nine-step drop era. The standards for then and for today are completely different. To compare the stats of passers of today to the stats of passers from that era is illogical and misleading.

Ted from Pittsford, NY

Vic, what would you say is the football parallel to the beauty of the symphony of rain?

Warm snow. It doesn’t happen often but, when it does, NFL Films has a feast. I’m talking about a windless day late in the season, with temperatures in the 30s and snowflakes the size of tennis balls tumbling slowly, gracefully from the sky.

Trevor from Waukesha, WI

Vic, your column finds a way to give me perspective every day. I’ve not just become a better fan, but a better person. What gives you perspective each day?

When I was a young reporter, it was the mortgage. When I was a middle-aged reporter, it was the kids. Now, it’s age.

Steven from Milwaukee, WI

If McCarthy is not at all responsible for the Packers’ offensive troubles last year, why do the majority of writers, analysts and scouts seem to lay heavy blame at his feet for the inability to adapt to the personnel’s skill sets and opposing defensive game plans?

What you’re really asking is why didn’t the Packers win the Super Bowl, but that’s not the language we speak nowadays. The video game craze and the avalanche of ex-players on ESPN and NFL Network analyzing every meaningless play to assign blame for the meaningful has resulted in the language of analysis. I call it “cover two talk.” The fans feel compelled to speak that language, lest they be on the outside looking in. You want the truth? Here’s the truth: The majority of the analysis you use to form your opinion on the Packers’ adaptation to personnel skill sets and opponents’ defensive game plans is incorrect. How would you know?

Chris from Buffalo, NY

Vic, I know some sharks can live in freshwater; bull sharks usually come to my mind. Are you saying they spotted bull sharks in Lake Michigan? I am assuming that’s where you kayak.

Oh, no, I kayak in the Fox River, where there’s a species of freshwater shark known affectionately as the “cheese shark.” It craves cheese, hence the phrase “milk in the water.” It lives on leftovers from the ice-fishing season. Chris, do not go into the Fox unless you bring some cheese curds with you. You give them some cheese curds and they’ll love you forever.

Jon from Rochester, MN

Vic, from your personal experience, which five-year period showed the greatest change in the NFL?

I would say it’s 1973-78: goal posts moved back 10 yards, overtime period instituted for regular-season games, homefield advantage for playoffs decided by record, head slap eliminated, offensive linemen allowed to use hands to block, bump-and-run coverage outlawed.

Chase from Palmetto, FL

Vic, have you seen the big alligator found on a golf course here in Florida? What would you do if it was found on your street or favorite golf course?

I owned a home in Jacksonville Beach that had a retention pond next to it. We were set to close on the sale of the house when a 10-foot alligator settled into my retention pond. Such things can hold up a closing, so I quickly called Bubba the alligator man, but he was unable to take the gator before closing. When the closing was complete, I turned to the buyer and said, “Soon, a man with one tooth, a rope, a big hook, a chicken and a gun will be coming into your yard. Congratulations, you’re the proud owner of a 10-foot alligator.”

Guy from Hudson, WI

Vic, you have my vote for governor on the anti-cottonwood party ticket. I have a 100-foot cottonwood near my house and it continuously rains crap all over my newly mowed lawn.

I think I would win.


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